Davies + Brook
Douglas Blyde says: “The dining room of Davies and Brook at Claridge’s evokes the auditorium of an Art Deco cinema, the bar where the stage would be. Trolleys promising at-table experiences such as the removal, by red hot callipers, of the necks of prized bottles (you get to keep the cork), are opened by wine director, Gabriel di Bella and his seven-strong team. Born to restaurateur parents, a Sicilian father and French mother, Gabriel di Bella gained much floor experience as a youth before formally studying at France’s first sommelier school, Tain-l’Hermitage, later working at Alain Ducasse, Monaco, Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley, then alongside Guillem Kerambrun at Caprice Holdings.
On joining the Claridge’s project last summer, which follows Fera, di Bella spent a busy two weeks with the sommelier team at garlanded chef Daniel Humm’s New York mothership, 11 Madison Park, working with wine director, Cedric Nicaise, whose 15 years of buying has resulted in a list of 4,800 bins. In comparison, di Bella’s list, currently poised at around 1,800 bins, will seem fitter, though he vows to ensure this “drastically evolves over 18 months to 3,600 bins.”
Di Bella expended considerable care in ensuring his team are “wide and eclectic” and “fit the culture of being nice and caring.” He adds: “It’s the most well-oiled experience I’ve seen and people truly care about what they do, from porter to assistant server and GM – and you feel it on the floor.”
The first in the UK to use “BinWise”, a Californian layout, stock control and ordering system which automatically updates the website, di Bella’s wine book is predominantly organised by grape variety. Genuinely all-encompassing, it is in part a love letter to the Rhône valley, while also acknowledging the restaurant’s parent company with an increasing tally of North American wines, with flights of and Harlan and Mayacamas nestling alongside Grace and Favour fizz from La Garagista, Vermont, and Holus Bolus & Black Sheep Finds from Santa Maria. Acknowledging Humm’s Swiss heritage, expect the odd Swiss wine and cider, too – and a Swiss movement clock dominates the seemingly serene, shiny, daylight flooded kitchen where particularly fortunate diners could encounter a private audience with Estonian head chef, Dmitri Magi, as part of their meal.
A large selection of carafes and wines-by-the-glass could appeal to lunchtime diners and indeed solo diners who clearly feel comfortable dining with the tracks of Miles Davis for company.
Di Bella might pour young Jalousie from Domaine du Closel, Savennières with a virtuous-looking, impeccably textured, carrot salad with sunflower seeds, horseradish and pickled quail egg, “to cut through the natural sweetness of the carrot”. A super clean-cut Guinevere Chardonnay from Kent’s Gusbourne is served with variations of artichoke, mushroom and fennel, then bigger Ampodium, Côte-Rôtie (René Rostaing) with 14 day dry-aged, lavender-scented Creedy Carver duck, which di Bella jokingly calls “the British answer to Peking Duck”. Finish with the joyous milk and honey soft serve, ideally with marmalade coloured and scented, two-decade-old, Suduiraut Sauternes.”
See what db‘s Lucy Shaw thought of the food earlier this year: DB EATS: DAVIES AND BROOK